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New York Living, Portraits of Style Visionaries
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New York is vital, exciting, cosmopolitan and captivating. The city has been an inspiration for the greatest creative minds, among them artists, writers, architects and designers. It is also a strong symbol of wealth and prosperity and home to one of the world’s leading financial centres. A unique melting pot of talents, the metropolis thrives on tremendous activity and is always on the move… reaching upward, beyond its tapered tops and steel spires of its skyline, to the sky. In this month’s Style Visionaries column, Esensual Living taps into the city’s strong creative pulse, finding out what it is that makes this global city of culture tick.

Responding to the following three key questions, our Style Visionaries discuss the magic of New York and how it remains a prodigious source of inspiration.

1. How has New York inspired your work and way of life?

2. The city is forever redefining itself - what new mutation is it going through today aesthetically and culturally? What is it that sets New York apart from other cities in the world?

3. Which three qualities characterise a New Yorker?

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SANDRA NUNNERLEY
Richard Corman
 

 

SANDRA NUNNERLEY

 

Interior designer Sandra Nunnerley is a New Zealand-born New Yorker who has firmly put roots down in the Big Apple.Her background in architecture and fine arts – she studied in Sydney, Paris and London – gives a true depth to her interior design. Bringing together contemporary design and classical allure with cosmopolitan flair, Nunnerly creates wonderful apartments and houses that are both beautiful and livable. Her projects in New York, Long Island, Aspen and London have been published in major international design magazines and she has featured on the Architectural Digest’s prestigious AD 100 list. Her recently published book, “Sandra Nunnerley Interiors” provides further insight into the extent of her talent, highlighting the cool beauty and timeless quality of her work.

 

1. How has New York inspired your work and way of life?
Even though I’ve lived in New York for more than 20 years now, every time I turn the corner on the street I find that there’s still something new to see. For a curious person like me, the dynamism of life and the diversity of people here is thrilling, and it’s a big part of why we have world-class cultural institutions and vibrant art and music and food scenes. Inspiration for me can be going to an ethnic restaurant in Queens and calling to mind the mood and look of India or Greece, or sitting down to “Madame Butterfly” at the Metropolitan Opera and being struck by the fabulous chartreuse of a kimono. My work is a lot about free association between all manner of beautiful things, and this city absolutely fuels that.

2. The city is forever redefining itself - what new mutation is it going through today aesthetically and culturally? What is it that sets New York apart from other cities in the world?
One of the major trends lately has been a movement away from a Manhattan-centric mindset. It used to be that New Yorkers didn’t even leave Manhattan, and when I moved here, downtown Manhattan was the center of all things artistic and edgy. Today downtown doesn’t really have that vibe because the artists and dance studios and young creatives have moved outward—to Brooklyn and Queens and Harlem. What is most exciting is that this decentralisation is making the city more creative than ever; different communities have emerged in neighborhoods like Williamsburg, Long Island City, Red Hook, and they’re not all doing the same things—whether you’re talking about art, design or even something like cocktails - so there is more diversity within the creative scene than ever. I think what sets New York apart—and this is as true today as it was 20 years ago—is its unique energy. It’s hard to describe but it’s a palpable dynamic energy that just hooks you, and there’s no other city in the world that has it. I couldn’t say what creates it; perhaps that it’s such a vertical city and you have so many people condensed in such a small space. I’d also say that this is by far the most efficient city for doing business in the world—you can get more things done faster here than anywhere—and I think that also serves as a kind of engine for the energy this place generates. You can actually feel how productive it is.

3. Which three qualities characterise a New Yorker?
Well, for starters they’re the fastest walkers you’ll ever see anywhere. And although you hear that New Yorkers are rude, if you ever need anything—or, God forbid, if there’s ever some kind of emergency—they are in fact the most helpful people. But most importantly, I think New Yorkers have an unusual openness to people, when they meet you they don’t just make idle chatter but genuinely want to know you. So many New Yorkers are not native to the city but came here from somewhere else, so almost they’ve creatively reinvented themselves or reimagined their life in some way, and I think that makes them appreciate newcomers or outsiders or just anyone who they haven’t met before, and take an interest. It’s a wonderful quality.

www.nunnerley.com 

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Jaime Ardiles Arce & Miguel Flores Viana
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Jaime Ardiles Arce & Miguel Flores Viana
 
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VLADIMIR KAGAN
Courtesy of Vladimir Kagan
 

VLADIMIR KAGAN

Vladimir Kagan is considered one of the most important furniture designers of the 20th century, boosting a career that has spanned 60 years and earned him a reputation as a style icon.Now an octogenarian, Kagan was born in Germany and came to New York in 1938 to study architecture at Columbia University before joining his father, a master cabinetmaker, to learn the ropes.

In 1950 Kagan opened his first showroom in the city – his clients were the leading luminaries in the arts and industries including Warner Communications, American Express, Alpha Metallix or the Lane Company – and went on to create the Vladimir Kagan Design Group, specialising in private and commercial projects.Kagan’s extravagant biomorphic design and sculptured upholstered furniture created an original look that has made him an inspiration for an entire generation of designers.His furniture designed in the 40s, 50s and 60s are now considered icons of modernity and feature in collections at the V&A in London, the Vitra Design Museum and the Die NeueSamlung in Germany.

 

1. How has New York inspired your work and way of life?
New York is a dynamic city… always in a state of flux. It keeps you on your toes. I have always worked in New York, been a part of its Avant Garde scene, responding to its quicksilver moods. That is why my design speaks the vocabulary of today even if they were designed fifty years ago.

2. The city is forever redefining itself - what new mutation is it going through today aesthetically and culturally? What is it that sets New York apart from other cities in the world?
The New York that I inhabit is demanding, individualistic, wealthy. My clients have an insatiable taste for originality - unique designs that are bespoke to them exclusively. When cost is not the objective, the mind can wander freely and I am surprised at the creativity it can produce. Away from New York, individuality is more sparse, clients fewer, opportunities diminished.

3. Which three qualities characterise a New Yorker?
New Yorkers are hard to codify… we are an international melting pot; the New Yorkers I deal with are homogenised and don’t fit a mould. Get out of the rarified air and you will see the real New Yorker. The taxi driver (If he is not Pakistani). A Brooklyn native. Italian from little Italy – add an Irish man from Queens – A Hassidic Jew from Williamsburg.

www.vladimirkagan.com

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Courtesy of Vladimir Kagan
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Courtesy of Vladimir Kagan
 
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Paul Austin
Courtesy of the Austin Advisory Group
 

 

PAUL AUSTIN

Australian-born New Yorker Paul Austin made his name as a global fragrance expert. After 18 years he left the corporate world and founded his own company, The Austin Advisory Group – a strategic storytelling company that is committed to crafting source stories for heritage brands in the luxury goods, hospitality, wellness and fragrance industries. Austin’s goal is to inspire consumers with the truth and beauty found at the source of the brands that he collaborates with. Often in the form of short, character-driven films that Austin calls “Source Stories,” these narratives invite the audience to engage emotionally with the product. Austin also conceives and produces collaborations between luxury brands, such as the Grasse-based fragrance house Robertet and Rolls Royce. With wonderful skill and sensitivity, Austin – very much in line with Esensual Living’s own holistic philosophy – takes his audience on a journey through style and discovery.

 

1. How has New York inspired your work and way of life?
I love New York’s physical scale, its high/low cultural mix, its endless sense of potential. Its what drew me here 19 years ago, and its what energizes me today. Im still hugely inspired - both personally and professionally - by the incredible mix of talent in this city. I love having reason to collaborate with emerging and award-winning talent in film, music, perfumery, and decorative arts. Every day, my schedule is filled with the unexpected. I might be working with a documentarian to create a Source Story film or interviewing one of New York’s iconic fashion designers. I could be finalizing a scent project with one of the world’s greatest noses or cooking up a new project thanks to a random encounter with someone I might have just met over dinner. I love that kind of range.

2. The city is forever redefining itself - what new mutation is it going through today aesthetically and culturally? What is it that sets New York apart from other cities in the world?
I’m fascinated by the sheer amount of people, influences and products that find their way to NYC from all around the world. More than ever, New Yorker’s want to know the stories behind these products that touch their lives. What started as the farm-to-table moment several years ago has now morphed into a movement that goes way beyond food. In terms of the city, you only have to look at how Brooklyn has been reborn as a highly desirable location.

3. Which three qualities characterise a New Yorker?
Curiosity. Tenacity. Chutzpah.

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Courtesy of the Austin Advisory Group
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Courtesy of the Austin Advisory Group
 
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RENAUD VUAILLAT
Olivier Christie
 

RENAUD VUAILLAT

Renaud Vuaillat is the founder and director of 21st Twenty First Gallery in Chelsea, a discreet second floor space that specialises in limited edition modern furniture and contemporary design that has rapidly become a meeting point for international collectors and design aficionados.

Originally an expert in 18th century decorative arts, Vuaillat’s career began in the Serpette Flea Market in Paris. He opened an antiques gallery on the Left Bank in Paris and over time, developed a keen appreciation for contemporary furniture design. Eventually his eclectic taste and keen eye for new talent began attracting attention from New York, so much so that he began dividing time between the two cities, selling and consulting, until eventually settling in Manhattan in 2006 when he opened the flagship 21st Twenty First Gallery. Alongside his limited edition design furniture and objects, Vuaillat exhibits a beautifully curated selection from designers and artists such as Hubert Le Gall, Bernar Venet, Rob Wynne, Bruno de Caumont, Dan McCarthy and Chahan.

 

1. How has New York inspired your work and way of life?
New York has changed my life. Everything goes fast here, all the time. Things change very often, for the good and for the bad - but mostly for the good. New York has inspired my work giving me the possibility to fully express myself. Business is good and clients are thankful for what you do, it is important in a job and in life in general. You're endlessly looking at things with new perspective. People are more spontaneous and less judgmental.

2. The city is forever redefining itself - what new mutation is it going through today aesthetically and culturally? What is it that sets New York apart from other cities in the world?
There is a lot going on, all the time, from food to architecture to art. People are excited by all aspects of things and the development in each sector is phenomenal. Perhaps it’s a global phenomenon but here you can experience it in such a strong way because it is all condensed on this small island.

3. Which three qualities characterise a New Yorker?
A New Yorker is sophisticated, driven and sharp.

www.21st21st.com

 

Portrait by Olivier Christie. Gallery views courtesy of 21stTwenty First. Furniture and accessories 1. White dresser Damien Hamon, seat Julian Mayor, Rug by Federica Tondato, table Gio Ponti, 2. Nougat mirror Hubert le Gall, console Mathilde Penicaud, table and vase François Salem, 3. Chair Chantal and Olivier Saccomano, bronze seat Mattia Bonetti, Plopp stools Oscar Zieta, lamps Vincent Corbiere. 

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Courtesy of 21stTwenty First
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Courtesy of 21stTwenty First
 
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MICHELE OKA DONER
Jordan Doner
 

 

MICHELE OKA DONER

“Beyond its strength and beauty, Oka Doner’s work defies categorization, blurring boundaries between art, design and architecture.” This quote from Barbara Bloemink’s book, “Nature’s Scribe: The Work and Art of Michele Oka Doner,” sums up the magnitude and singularity of this magnificent artist’s work. Oka Doner’s artistic production encompasses sculpture, public art, furniture, jewelry, functional objects, fueled by her lifelong study of nature and the human figure. Her work can be found in important private collections and major museums such as the The Art Institute of Chicago and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris. A true New Yorker, Oka Doner is renowned for her public installations including “Radiant Site,” a 165ft long wall at Herald Square subway station in New York.  She lives and works downtown in a spacious loft where her personal life mingles harmoniously with her immense creativity.

 

1. How has New York inspired your work and way of life?
There is a great flow of energy that moves through the city. There are multiple dialogues taking place on all subjects at any given time. Living and working in this human hive has certainly pollenated my life and work.  

2. The city is forever redefining itself - what new mutation is it going through today aesthetically and culturally? What is it that sets New York apart from other cities in the world?
New York is defining itself as a city of the 21st century. Our wonderful mayor (Michael) Bloomberg has set the stage for technology to find a comfortable berth on the fast speed train of the computer age. Real estate is being dedicated to wiring for equipment not imagined even 10 years ago. Cornell University is bringing students here for a tech campus. A nexus, a node is growing quickly. New York will be able to build on the numerous civic, cultural, and financial triumphs of the 20th century.

3. Which three qualities characterise a New Yorker?
New Yorkers are among the friendliest and most open people in the world. Someone remarked recently that they had never seen a major urban centre with so many people smiling on the streets. New Yorkers are happy.  

www.micheleokadoner.com

 

Credits Ms Oka Doner Portrait Jordan Doner, Galaxy detail from A Walk on the Beach at the Miami International Airport, Three Figures Strider Salacia Collusus photos Nick Merrick, Radiant Site at the Herald Square subway station New York photo Claude Samton. 

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Galaxy detail from A Walk on the Beach
Nick Merrick
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Three Figures Strider
Nick Merrick
 
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Radiant Site at the Herald Square subway station New York
Claude Samton

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